Learning from the Dark Side of the Gig Economy: Unraveling Incentives and Behavioral Challenges

1214227 Learning from the Dark Side of the Gig Economy Unraveling Incentives and Behavioral Challenges

We’ve all been there. You stop at traffic lights, and a frenzied delivery cyclist swiftly zips in front, ignoring the light. Perhaps you’re at KFC, jostled by a swarm of Deliveroo and Uber Eats drivers, all clamouring and gesturing at order numbers on their phones. Or maybe you find yourself unable to access your driveway because a colossal white van obstructs it, while an Amazon delivery person leaves £300 worth of electrical goods on your neighbour’s doorstep in the pouring rain. Read More ...

Gamification Thoughts in the Medium of Memes

Information power responsibility Gamification Thoughts in the Medium of Memes

Hi all, busy week last week, but did get time to throw out some words of “wisdom” via memes. I thought I would put them here for easy reference and explain on of them a little better!

I think this first one is pretty self-explanatory. Engagement is about people wanting to do things. They find value in the activity. If they feel that they are forced to do it and that outweighs the value, they will never be fully engaged.

A brief set of definitions. There is more to be found on this in my Serious Games vs Gamification / Game Thinking page

I have touched on this before. There are very subtle differences between the idea of incentives and bribes. It is important to understand them. Bribes are about people doing things just because there is a reward. Incentives are about rewarding people for doing things

I want to spend a little bit of time on these two.
=&0=&, power and responsibility.
A lot of people feel that the inclusion of “Gam” in the word “Gamification” makes it a trivialisation of what people are doing. These are important serious people doing important serious jobs, they have no interest in games. Putting aside all of the data that might suggest that they are exactly the sort of people who play games… we need to be sure that we are not actually trivialising the work.

At its core, gamification is about information. You are giving people information to help them understand how they are progressing, what they are doing well, where they are failing and how they can turn it around. This can be by way of simple paper charts, or complex online “big data” driven systems (gamification is NOT digital). Giving people this information empowers them to make decisions about how they work and adapt, in turn giving them a chance to take responsibility for their own actions and progress. Because gamification tends to give more regular feedback than traditional methods (think annual review), people can adapt and adjust their strategies as they need to, not just when they are told to by the powers that be!

The final image shows how information, empowerment and responsibility can all be supported and driven by gamification


And one final afterthought 😉

Bribes, Incentives, Bonuses, Awards and Rewards in Gamification

Incentive and rewards 2 Bribes Incentives Bonuses Awards and Rewards in Gamification

Recently there has been some conversation in the Gamification Hub and other areas about the difference between things like bribes, incentives and so on.

It is actually an interesting and very relevant question in gamification circles as they all get mentioned from time to time, so I thought I would tackle it a little here.

First, let’s look at the standard definitions (from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

  • Bribe:
    • Dishonestly persuade (someone) to act in one’s favour by a gift of money or other inducement.


    • A thing that motivates or encourages someone to do something
    • A payment or concession to stimulate greater output or investment.


    •  A sum of money added to a person’s wages as a reward for good performance.  


    • Give or order the giving of (something) as an official payment, compensation, or prize to (someone).


  • A thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement
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Indirect Incentives: Good or Bad in Gamification?

Red pill blue pill1 Indirect Incentives Good or Bad in Gamification

First things first, what do you think of the new blog theme? Playing with the Hueman theme to see how it goes. I have also removed a large number of poppy uppy things!

Recently I heard an interesting idea on how to indirectly incentivise employees to do a particular voluntary task. The plan was that every x percent of people who did the task would translate into a charitable donation from the company to a charity voted on by the employees.

My first thought was “great, they finally get that you should stop trying to incentive everything with competitions or gift vouchers!” However, after I thought some more, I began to feel that this was still a bad idea…

First of all, let’s look at a couple of types of incentives.

  • Material Incentives: These are rewards that have a direct material value to a users. Money, prizes that sort of thing.
  • Non Material Incentives: These are rewards that have no direct material value. Points, Badges, virtual currency.

These are both direct incentives, the user gets some sort of personal benefit from getting them.

  • Indirect Incentives: These are incentives that the user gets no personal benefit from. Charitable donations, sponsoring a puppy in Outer Mongolia – that sort of thing.

Initially it looks like indirect incentives are the perfect storm. They appeal to the altruist / philanthropist in us all. They cost less as you are not giving everyone a reward. There is competition, there is social pressure (you don’t want to be the one that lets down the puppies in Outer Mongolia) and more.

So, do the task and feel good about helping a charity…. right?

I’m not sure. An incentive is still an incentive – it is still an extrinsic reward. There is still the risk that you will get people only doing the task for the reward – direct or otherwise. You still potentially sacrifice quality for quantity.

What’s worse here is that whilst it is voluntary, not doing it doesn’t just affect your chances of a reward, now it affects charity. This is in fact Shamification. So you are being forced to do something that is meant to be voluntary by being made to feel socially guilty if you don’t.  Again, this will get people responding just to not be seen as not responding. This again boosts quantity over quality and possibly creating negative or resentful feelings!

Another factor here is many will see this as “You have money to save puppies, but not to give me a financial boost? How much do you really value me doing this task then?”.

What are the answers then?

Honestly, I don’t really know – but here are some things to think about when you consider any types of incentive, direct or indirect.

  • Any incentive is still a reward and will potentially have an effect on intrinsic motivation
  • Incentives need to be meaningful to the user.
  • Incentives need to make the user feel they are valued.
  • Making people feel guilty is not going to endear them to you. If something is voluntary, don’t associate guilt to not doing it!
  • Value quality over quantity. For example; if you are using an incentive to get people to do a survey, consider why they are doing the survey. Are they doing it for the reward (or to avoid shame) or because they think you value their opinion and they want to give it to you? Whilst you may want 100% participation, surely you would rather have 20% of people engage and give valuable input, rather than 100% where at least 80% is just people doing it because they feel they have to.
  • Don’t use incentives at all…. Consider how you can make better use of intrinsic motivation (RAMP).
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    Gamification is sh1t. Let’s make it better.

    Gamification glossary Gamification is sh1t Let 8217 s make it better

    I thought that might get your attention. Excuse the contrived use of the 1 in shit there as well, firewalls can be so jumpy about certain words.

    Now back to my point.

    Gamification, in far too many cases right now,  is indeed shit. I am not saying gamification itself is bad, just a lot of the uses and applications of gamification that we are seeing out there falls into that particularly odorous category.

    It’s as if gamification has become the duct tape of user design. “The user experience is a bit off, what should we do? Add gamification”. “The system is not great, people get stuck and don’t like using it, what should we do? Add gamification – points and badges will fix it!”. “We need to improve efficiency in the department. How can we do that? A leaderboard you say? Let’s do it!”

    Rather than using gamification as part of the overall design, to help enrich the user journey and experience, it is used to patch bad design – making it ultimately worse. Gamification is not a solution looking for a problem, it is a way of thinking and designing that puts the user at the centre of the experience. If it is not done this way it will fail and fail in terrible ways!

    We can make this better and here are a few ways you can start.

    Think RAMP.

  • Give people the chance to work together – relatedness. Make them feel part of something. Collaboration should be your first thought, not competition. Use the technologies available to connect people beyond their usual working set – there is no such thing as a global boundary these days.
  • Give them autonomy, freedom to make mistakes and to find the best way for them to work. Your way is not their way and your game is not their game! Celebrate differences as given some time and some freedom, you may find others have much better ideas than you. Don’t be afraid to loosen the reigns a little.
  • What ever gamification you decide to use, make sure that it gives people a real sense that their achievements mean something. I don’t mean achievements like trophies, I mean real achievements. Celebrate new products, innovative ideas, academic achievement, losing weight, running an extra mile. Make them feel that these achievements meant something to you as much as it meant something to them.
  • What ever you are trying to achieve with your system, think about why the user would be interested – what is their purpose within it. Every machine runs because every part does its job efficiently and effectively – no matter how small.  Give everyone a sense of where they fit and how important they are to the overall success. Give them an idea of what they are working towards and milestones to help the gauge how close they are.
  • If you have to use rewards or incentives (and really you should not have to), make them relevant and in line with the task and the people. An iPad may be a nice prize for a member of your team, not too expensive, but something they may want. However, if you are looking at a more global group – an iPad could be much more valuable to people in some countries than others. If the prize is too big in comparison to the task, people will game the system to get it. Remember over justification – you want people doing something because they want to do well at it – not just because they want the prize.
  • Make it clear how success is measured and fed back to the users. There is nothing worse than suddenly finding you had achieved something, but have no idea how you did it. Actually, there is one thing worse – finding someone has achieved something you think you should have achieved and having no idea how they did it or how the scoring worked!
  • It’s not about fun and games. Don’t just think you can add what you think is fun or build what you think is a game and it will suddenly solve all of your engagement issues. Test things with your potential users and hire people or companies that know what they are doing. Unless you are an expert in gamification or you have the flexibility to fail – let the experts do it.
  • Finally and most importantly – honesty and transparency. You are trying to make things better. Clouding your purpose and trying to trick people into doing things is not the right way and is destined to fail.
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